Jake Morrison

A conversation with the VFX Supervisor of Thor: Ragnarok and Ant-Man

Jake Morrison is a highly experienced VFX professional, with over 15 years of credits to his name, from his early days as a compositor, to becoming VFX Supervisor on massive Marvel projects such as The Avengers, Ant Man and the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. We talked to him about his role, the projects he has worked on and how cineSync has helped.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background

I got my start in the business working at a 35mm slide-bureau by day and, by night, using a load of modified Atari computers to allow me to ‘play’ visuals live to music. The slide-bureau was transitioning into digital and so soon I had access to Quantel Paintboxes, 3D Studio and then Alias PowerAnimator. 

From there it was just a steady progression of jobs, learning the skills and moving from events to commercials and then eventually feature films, starting on the box and gradually working my way up as lead compositing / CG supervisor to VFX supervisor.

What have been some of the most exciting and unique projects in your career?

One of the great joys of this job is learning and you genuinely never stop. On each project I learn a huge amount about the film’s subject matter but also new and better ways to shoot a movie, post-production technologies and of course you learn new skills simply by working with talented people across all of the different departments.

With that said Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ was terrifically fun – it was challenging to make the macro work accessible and exciting. Other highlights are such visual treats as working on Zac Snyder’s ‘300’, the crazy visuals we did for the Waschowski’s on ‘Speed Racer’ and of course immersing myself into Middle-Earth as lead compositor on ‘Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers’.

On what project did you start using cineSync, and how did it change the way you worked?

We had early versions of cineSync for both Speed Racer and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and, frankly, it was a game changer. Anything that reduces confusion and focuses an artistic discussion is a plus – and that certainly was..

Was there a specific feature of cineSync that you immediately responded to?

When several people are in a room together, locked in creative discussion, the very first thing they do is point. I can’t overstate the importance of the ability to simply see each other’s cursors in realtime whilst you’re talking through notes remotely: “we need to work on this one first”.

How did cineSync change the way you approached remote collaboration on later projects?

Once you’ve got the basic ability to pin-point a visual element under your belt it just gets better; drawing on a QuickTime, sketching an idea out on a blank frame, using the Pro version to zoom in on details, colour correcting a movie, stacking multiple versions and flipping between the same frame like an onion-skin, and annotating multiple frames in a row to create an animation (laser blasts!) are just some of the many things I’ve used cineSync for.

How often do you work on global project? How much a part does cineSync play?

I’m constantly working remotely with cineSync! It’s so much in the DNA of an AAA film production that it’s almost impossible to imagine a work day that doesn’t involve it.

How have you seen cineSync’s toolset evolve over the years?

cineSync has grown strongly and in direct response to user-feedback. I can, and do, regularly ping the support team and ask for improvements. If I run into a creative need during a project I’ll let the team know and they’re always responsive.

Most importantly, the core toolset has stayed constant and that’s wonderful in an ever-changing world!

What new challenges do you face in VFX and how will cineSync enable you to overcome them?

Our biggest challenge – and the biggest possible reward – is the audience’s engagement! Taking the audience to a world they’ve never visited before, telling them a new story, giving them a moment that’ll become a memory, these are things we work extremely hard to achieve and the only way to do that is through collaboration.

Post-production has become increasingly more integral to the film-making process. We need to work globally and cineSync lets us do that.